Video: An Iraqi Woman and Her Library

Much was made of the looting of Iraq’s National Library, after the fall of Baghdad and the collapse of order in the capital. Less is known about the role of small private libraries and how they continue to provide some of the only access to scholarly material for Baghdad’s intellectuals and academics.

Hameeda Al-Bassam, a disabled Shi’a woman, describes her work as a librarian, as well as the difficulties she faces, not only as a woman, but also as someone bound to a wheelchair.

Iraqis such as Hameeda have dedicated their lives to providing and rebuilding these bastions of scholarship in Baghdad. Iraq has a long history as a center of learning and scholarship, but after the 1991 Gulf War Iraq’s academic sector faced growing difficulties. It became nearly impossible to obtain scholarly magazines, the latest textbooks and scholarship, and even pencils and other necessities for learning.

Not only is Hameeda’s work difficult given the increasing attacks on scholars and academics in Iraq, she is also part of a growing population of disabled Iraqis, adding just one more difficulty to the dangers of living in Baghdad today.

In the coming months we will be taking a deeper look at Iraq’s academic institutions, internal displacement, and the way checkpoints are carving what was once a large cosmopolitan city into small enclaves and ghettos of sectarianism. Please consider a donation to support our growing team of correspondents in Iraq.

For more information on Iraq’s libraries, see this section of the American Library Association’s website.